Business is built upon trust. Very few people will even consider doing business with entities they don't trust. "A staggering 92% of millennial's reported that trust plays a factor in who influences them online." If you are in a leadership or customer-facing role and your personal brand does not convey trust then it's time to rethink your strategy; but how do you demonstrate trust?
In 1960 the U.S. presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon was watched by eighty million people. In those days the only real-time mediums were radio or television. After the debate a survey of both platforms users revealed that those who had listened to the radio firmly believed that Mr. Nixon had won the debate. Those watching on television however, had a stronger impression formed by both what they heard AND by what they saw. The difference being that Richard Nixon sweated profusely, while John Kennedy appeared calm and confident. In their opinion Mr. Kennedy had won the debate. In fact we can determine trust in an unfamiliar face in just 100 milliseconds. Alexander Todorov of Princeton University, an expert on this topic, said, "We investigated the minimal conditions under which people make such inferences... we manipulated the exposure time of unfamiliar faces. Judgments made after a 100ms exposure correlated highly with judgments made in the absence of time constraints, suggesting that this exposure time was sufficient for participants to form an impression." This proves that we are very good at quickly forming impressions
How does that hold up specifically when applied to business people in customer facing roles? I did my own, unscientific research study. I searched Linkedin and compared the portraits/headshots of people with the word "Sales" in their title at two companies. Those two companies are currently at opposite ends of the success spectrum in the IT industry. I wanted to see how their sales people compared in adoption rates of portrait photos, and their use of professional photographers in
generating those portraits.
SAP is a very successful software developer headquartered in Waldorf, Germany. They have often been ranked at the top of the scale in terms of pay to their employees in customer facing roles, as shown in this study.
SAP's stock price was at $10.28 in 2002 and on the last day of December 2015 it stood at $79.10. SAP is a company that has demonstrated it's ability to thrive in an industry that has experienced significant turmoil in the past few years. Simply based on their willingness to pay their customer-facing employees a premium they can hire some of the best customer-facing individuals in their industry. At the other end of the spectrum is a company also in high technology that has gone through significant turmoil of it's own, including substantial attrition in recent years. This second company,
who will be referred to as Company B, are a household name, headquartered outside of California, but still in the lower forty eight.
I searched Linkedin for 'People' using the same format of search for both organizations. In SAP's case it was "SAP Sales". Then I looked at the first one hundred results for each company. How did the numbers shake out? Here are my findings:
SAP - Total with a professional portrait = 65%
Company B - Total with a professional portrait = 38%
SAP - Total with no portrait photo = 7%
Company B - Total with no portrait photo = 14%
Now, I'm not saying that the fortunes of one company over another are dictated by whether their sales people have a professional portrait; absolutely not. The goal was to determine how customer-facing individuals at these two companies rank against each other in terms of their adoption rates of portrait/headshots and within that, their use of professional photographers to take those portraits. What I am suggesting is that customer-facing individuals at more successful organizations understand, at a higher rate, the value that a professional portrait/headshot can bring to impression management.
Sales people, working at SAP, which is at the top of the rankings, are utilizing a professional photographer at a rate of 171% when compared to sales people at the currently unsuccessful, Company B, and SAP has half as many sales people without a portrait/headshot. Two out of three sales people at the highly successful SAP are using a professional photographer for their portraits. That is significant.
now who you are connected to on Social Networking sites. "In social networks, perceivers view negative warmth traits and positive competence traits as transitive: If someone is perceived as unfriendly (or intelligent), then others in that person’s social network — even if connected only through indirect ties
(i.e., a friend of a friend) — also are perceived as unfriendly (or intelligent”- Wang and Cuddy